Helping to improve early years provision
Nick Hudson, Ofsted Early Years Director
Friday, September 26, 2014
Nick Hudson, Ofsted early years director, explains priorities for quality improvement in the coming months
I have said on a number of occasions that my priority, as Ofsted’s national director, is to focus on improving quality across all early years provision.
Inspection is one stage of a process whereby Ofsted identifies what is and what is not working well in an early years setting, so that the journey to good or better can either begin or be confirmed, if the setting is already taking steps to improve.
That is why we have spent a lot of time working with the early years sector leaders. Ofsted early years deputy director Gill Jones and I have met early years leaders over the course of the year to hear their views. We may not always agree, but the process of engaging in dialogue can only assist us in improving our inspection practice.
Good response to new approach
That’s had a direct impact. For example, we had a good response to our new approach to complaint-driven inspections.
I hope we can continue in this constructive way, whilst you can appreciate that not everything we do will always meet with universal approval.
We have been examining the way we manage our inspection cycle. We want to help more early years providers get to good or better, and focus on those currently rated as requiring improvement.
Prioritise providers that are not yet good
From now on, we will give more time for post-registration inspection. Rather than an inspection within seven months of registration, we will now undertake an inspection within 30 months.
This will free up a great deal of time – we estimate up to 10,000 days - and allow us to prioritise those nurseries, childminders and other early years providers that are not yet good or outstanding. It will also give new providers longer to embed their practice so that at their first inspection they will have every chance to show that they are good or better.
Of course, if we hear of a safeguarding concern then we will take appropriate action, and that may well include an early inspection. But new early years providers can no longer expect an Ofsted visit within seven months.
In a similar way, we will no longer carry out a new registration visit for providers who re-register for technical reasons, such as changing their legal status, and where the setting has a good inspection history.
Our inspectors will also focus for the next few months on early years register inspections instead of childcare register inspections. And instead of monitoring providers who were judged as inadequate, but where no enforcement action was needed, we will move straight to a re-inspection within six months.
Ofsted inspectors, rather than our contractors, will re-inspect nurseries judged to require improvement. Coupled with our improvement seminars for these providers, we hope this will make the journey to good or better swifter. Starting from October, Ofsted inspectors will also complete all re-inspections of providers judged as inadequate where we are taking enforcement action.
These changes are being introduced so that our inspectors can concentrate on inspecting providers who need to be inspected rather than other activity that we have traditionally undertaken.
Good or outstanding
Yesterday we published statistics on early years inspection outcomes from April to June 2014. These show that 3,107 early years providers were judged to be good or outstanding in those three months. As for those providers judged to require improvement, we will continue to work with them at improvement seminars where they can learn about best practice.
I hope these sessions which will lead to a better service for young children.
Good level of development
This really matters. Earlier this week, a study from University College London said that only 52 per cent of five-year-olds in England had reached a good level of development as they progress from reception to their first year of school.
This means that almost half of children in reception have not reached a good level of development. Professor Sir Michael Marmot said that England was 'bumping along the bottom' in terms of rankings of early childhood development. I agree with him that this picture is unacceptable and must improve.
But whether or not you agree with the conclusions of this academic study, it is clear that there is a big job ahead for all of us in making more young children, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, ready to learn when they start primary school.